Opinion » Shredder

Amateur hour

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Did they or didn’t they? That’s the question!

After its March 7 meeting, the SLO County Board of Supervisors—in particular, three of ’em—were accused by members of the public of violating the Brown Act, which in case you don’t recall is that pesky little law requiring proper public notice of government agendas and forbidding elected officials from holding informal, undisclosed meetings.

As I mentioned last week, 5th District Supervisor Debbie Arnold whipped out a revised version of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act Strategy, asking for a motion to approve, which board chairman and 1st District Supervisor John Peschong immediately seconded as if he already knew and approved of the marked up revisions Arnold put forward! What the what?!? Without agendizing it? Had they discussed these changes behind closed doors in violation of the Brown Act?

Ooh, how the public tittered about it!

Well, public oversight for the win! After strong outcry, the board agreed at its March 21 meeting—with some urging from County Counsel Rita Neal—to re-agendize the groundwater policy for its April 4 meeting. They also discussed whether they would further discuss asking the SLO County District Attorney to investigate their potential Brown Act violation. Hey, when the county attorney says what you did looked hinky, it’s butt-covering time!

Peschong—who was either being hilarious, abstruse, or obtuse (Take your pick!)—suddenly became the cautious one and questioned whether the board was allowed to discuss a future discussion since said discussion wasn’t on the agenda. Oh you slay me, Peschong! I guess when a neophyte without any prior experience becomes chair, this is the ineptitude we can expect.

This Three Stooges burlesque is almost enough for me to wish 3rd District Supervisor Adam “I Know How This Board Thing Works” Hill had become chair as he was supposed to before the majority circumvented protocol and gave the position to John “Wait, I Have to Follow a Bunch of Rules?” Peschong.

Meanwhile over at the navel-gazing SLO City Council, Mayor Heidi Harmon, Vice Mayor Dan Rivoire, and council member Andy Pease spent, like, forever discussing a tree that was cut down in violation of city ordinance.

Come on! You sweet, sweet progressives! It’s time for action on real issues! Like, what you’re going to do to replace that rental housing inspection ordinance you threw in the trash at the same meeting.

But, you know, trees! Construction firm Stalwork Inc. had been permitted to remove some trees but took out one without permission, a clear violation of city rules, but the mayor and the new council members went round and round delaying what veteran Councilmember Carlyn Christianson had decided from the beginning: Enforce city policies and move to the next agenda item. Done and done!

Instead, the freshly minted seat-holders couldn’t stop asking inane questions, driving deeper into the minutia of a tree removal! I could actually hear city staffers’ eyes rolling in their heads! Thankfully, Christianson’s no-nonsense approach was finally adopted and Stalwork and the property owner were fined the full amount. Duh!

This is the same set of newly elected city officials that Assistant City Manager Derek Johnson needed to give a crash course on development agreements to because they are newbies to city government. Hey, I think career politicians suck as much as the next office machine, but if you’re going to step into office, you need to do your damn homework! Two development agreements are coming down the SLO pipeline, so you four Chatty Cathys better start studying.

Sadly, local government isn’t the only place suffering from amateurism. Look no further than calcoastnews.com, the local self-described “investigative journalism” website, to find out what happens when you’re more interested in sensationalism and getting a supposed scoop than you are in journalistic ethics. Writers and website founders Karen Velie and Dan Blackburn lost a defamation suit and were told to pay $1.1 million in damages.

On the plus side, they both just got what every journalist dreams about: their names in the New York Times. Yep, our local journalism debacle made the big time!

Too bad it’s for something real-life investigative journalists avoid like the plague. And it comes at a time when the public has very little faith in the Fourth Estate. President Donald “Cheeto Mussolini” Trump, who lies like a rug daily, keeps barking about “fake news.” Thanks, CalCoastNews, for giving the public some actual fake news to point to as they continue to attack journalism. We really appreciate it.

Worse, they have the gall to continue to beg for money on their blog and GoFundMe site.

“During the trial, the majority of our evidence and witnesses were blocked,” they claim. But the fact is the defense they mounted was cringe-inducing. A jury and a judge spanked them. They finally took the story in question down, after digging their heels in for five years! And still—still!—they claim to be the wronged party.

Claiming is what got them in the mess to begin with. I wonder what it will take for them to learn that the conspiracy theory they claim to be living in is entirely of their own making. Believing something to be a fact doesn’t make it a fact. You have to prove it.

Maybe the site’s new slogan could be “Always wronged, sometimes right.”

The Shredder is a professional … hide rankler. Send ideas and comments to shredder@newtimesslo.com.

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